Only lawyers opposed to Judicial Appointments Bill, Shane Ross says

Alan Shatter among ‘vested interests’ against changing judge selection process - Minister

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has dismissed criticism of his Judicial Appointments Bill by former minister for justice Alan Shatter. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has dismissed criticism of his Judicial Appointments Bill by former minister for justice Alan Shatter. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has dismissed criticism of his Judicial Appointments Bill from former minister for justice Alan Shatter, saying all those who oppose the legislation are lawyers.

Mr Shatter said the Bill, which was included in the programme for government at the insistence of Mr Ross, was a “bizarre vanity project”.

He told the Dublin Solicitors’ Bar Association last week that the “Bill does not meet the essential public interest criteria to positively improve the administration of justice.

“It is a very sad day that the Fine Gael party in government is going along with the Shane Ross perception of the judiciary,” he said.

“It is quite a bizarre and shocking example of bad legislation. I disagree with the Attorney General [Séamus Woulfe’s] description of it as a dog’s dinner. This is not a meal that anybody would serve up to a dog they love. It does not even get to the standard.”

Mr Ross responded on Monday by stating that all those who opposed the Bill were lawyers including Mr Shatter.

“The opposition to it always comes from lawyers. It is being led in the Dáil by a lawyer, Jim O’Callaghan, led by a lawyer in the Seanad, Michael McDowell, and now we have the voice of another lawyer opposing that,” he said.

“Vested interests will always oppose that Bill. That’s what happens. I am not a bit surprised by it.”

Lay people

The central feature of the Bill is a provision that judges should not be appointed by the government, but instead by a committee of legal figures and lay people, which will have a lay majority.

“Political patronage has got to be taken out of the judical appointments and we’re determined to do so,” Mr Ross added.

The Minister also said he was “100 per cent” with his colleague, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, in relation to punishing motorists who park in cycle lanes.

Mr Flanagan responded at the weekend to a photograph of cars parked in a cycle lane in Dublin by tweeting: “Cycle lanes must be kept clear for cyclists only. Gardaí & local authorities must act to enforce the law.”

Mr Ross said cyclists would be the top priority in the future.

“It is imperative that cyclists are put at the top of the queue and given priority. It is a mode shift that we are encouraging,” he said. “If they are blocking up cycle lanes, they will have to be pursued with more vigour.”